NEW YORK, NY, Feb. 1, 2022 — Minor League Baseball® (MiLB™) today announced the launch of “The Nine,” a new, Black-community focused outreach platform specifically designed to honor and celebrate the historic impact numerous Black baseball pioneers made on the sport, provide new opportunities for youth baseball and softball participation, further diversify the business of baseball, and embrace millions of passionate fans throughout MiLB’s 120 communities nationwide.
The Nine is named after the number Jackie Robinson wore during his only season playing in MiLB with the Triple-A Montreal Royals in 1946.
The Nine will connect MiLB teams’ existing, Black-community focused development efforts with new national programming and future special events in a coordinated and centralized campaign. The new inclusion initiative follows MiLB’s Copa de la Diversión Latino fan engagement platform introduced in 2017 that included 76 MiLB teams in 2021.
The Nine will recognize and honor several Black pioneers and trailblazing civil rights leaders in all 120 MiLB communities, ensuring the heroes of the past and their contributions continue to be celebrated through ceremonies and events at MiLB ballparks and in the community. Recent tributes and celebrations have included Negro Leagues commemorative games honoring the Austin Black Senators in Round Rock (TX), the Bradenton (FL) Nine Devils, and Page Fence Giants near Lansing (MI). Additional tribute games are being planned for the 2022 season and beyond.
“The Nine will shine bright spotlights on these successful initiatives and transform them into national campaigns reaching more fans and communities, further showcasing our teams’ commitment to representing, honoring, and welcoming all fans to MiLB’s unique brand of fun,” Kurt Hunzeker, MLB’s Vice President of Minor League Business Operations, said in a press release. “The Nine is just the latest example of MiLB teams being true community champions.”
In addition to player- and team-related content, The Nine will focus heavily on creating new opportunities for youth participation among young Black boys and girls, particularly in communities where youth baseball and softball programming is either nonexistent or difficult to access.
Central to this youth-focused push is a planned expansion of Major League Baseball’s Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) Program throughout MiLB’s national footprint. New competitions in MLB’s Pitch, Hit & Run and Junior Home Run Derby event series will also debut in MiLB markets beginning in 2022.
MiLB teams will continue to build relationships with local Black-owned and operated businesses, local artists and entertainers in an effort to embrace Black culture and make MiLB ballparks a hub for culturally relevant concerts, shows, and community events.
With several MiLB teams having a Historically Black College or University (HBCU) in their community, opportunities will be provided for those schools to start internship and mentorship programs with their local team, creating chances for on-the-job experience for students prior to entering the job market.
Additionally, MiLB recently partnered with TeamWork Online to create a more inclusive virtual job fair and ongoing talent pipeline that aims to recruit and position qualified and ready-for-hire candidates from across the country for potential management- and executive-level roles within MiLB team front offices.
— Jerry Del Priore